Wednesday, June 10, 2009

‘Imagine That’: Murphy is an avid Church lover

Thomas Haden Church is only nine months older than Eddie Murphy, but there’s no question the former Oscar-nominated supporting actor clearly is in awe of the latter.
“Imagine That,” opening Friday, finds Murphy’s conservative financial advisor, Evan Danielson, at odds with Church’s showboating Johnny Whitefeather, seemingly drawing on Native American spirits for his insights. Church, who turns 50 on Wednesday, tells correspondent Stan Urankar that the shoot never ceased to amaze him.
“I couldn’t believe Eddie even knew who I was, for openers, so just getting hired was something,” Church says. “Then, we’re on the set one day when Eddie comes up and says, ‘Hey, man, is it cool if a couple of my daughters come up and take their picture with you and get your autograph?’ ”
The ever-affable Church feigns a look of disbelief before the table of laughing print journalists. “I say to myself: ‘Are you kidding me? Did I just wake up and find out I won some kind of weird contest in hell? How is that my hero’s daughters want to get my autograph?’
“But, the girls said they remembered me from ‘George of the Jungle,’ and then Eddie’s youngest son came to meet me because he loved ‘Spider-Man 3.’ Man, that’s really special.”
Though perhaps indelibly etched in America’s memory as droll airplane mechanic Lowell Mather from the long-running “Wings” sitcom – part of an ensemble that also included Tim Daly, Steven Weber and a bit of an eccentric named Tony Shalhoub – Church had all but quit acting by 2004, returning to one of the four cattle ranches he owns outside his native El Paso.
That’s about the time that writer/director Alexander Payne called. “He said, ‘Hey, Thomas! I have a script I want you to read! It'll be great: You get to sleep with my wife!’ ” The script was “Sideways,” the “sleeping” was with Sandra Oh, and Church’s much-lauded performance reopened the door to his career.
Next up: “All About Steve,” a comedy scheduled for Labor Day weekend release, co-starring Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper. “I’m a CNN reporter and Bradley’s my cameraman,” Church says, “and she’s sort of stalking us to get closer to him. It’s a very funny movie.”
He’s also high on “Don McKay,” playing the title role in writer/director Jake Goldberger’s debut feature. The film, which drew raves at the recent TriBeCa Festival, is a bittersweet outlook at rekindling an old romance.
Read more from Stan on “Imagine That” and a mostly riveting “Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,” and my review of the superb and aptly named “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” all in Thursday's Sun News.

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